Skip to main content

tv   Book TV  CSPAN  October 16, 2011 8:15am-9:30am EDT

8:15 am
with a little bit of effort, anyone can do this. ♪ >> this photo from little rock, arkansas, was taken on september 4, 1957, outside central high school. david mar go lick's book, elizabeth and hazel, uncovers the story of the two women in the center of the photo examining their lives leading up to that day and beyond. mr. margolick talks about his book next in arkansas. this is just over an hour. [applause] >> when you look at any great photograph, there's always more to see than what meets the eye. on september 4, 1957, a stoic
8:16 am
young black girl can, elizabeth, a member of the little rock nine, was met by an angry mob during her first days to desegregate little rock central high school. one of the many yelling behind her was an angry young white girl with narrow eyes and clenched teeth, elizabeth bryan. will counts captured this moment in one of the most recognizable photo of the civil rights era. it depicted the hate and fury of one young girl and the timid demeanor of another. this image circumstance -- circulated around our state, the nation and around the world. do you remember how seeing this photo for the first time made you feel? who knew that the photo of these two young girls -- one black, one white, both 15 years old worn less than four -- born less than four months apart living
8:17 am
within miles of each other and both beginning the 11th grade -- would be so powerful in symbolizing the race relations in america. even more powerful was the poster david margolick saw of the two women. this time the women were smiling and embracing one another. two women -- one black, one white -- but this time they were no longer entering the 3 -- 11th grade. they were grown, and this was a poster of reconciliation. david came across the poster during a trip to little rock for the -- let's try that again. david came across the poster during a trip to little rock, and for the past 12 years with other jobs under his belt he has investigated what lies under that historic image for his new book "elizabeth and hazel: two women of little rock." he's created a dual biography so that we are able to gain an
8:18 am
understanding of the emotions behind the two women bound together by one single photograph. david margolick was a longtime contributing editor for "vanity fair". he joined their team in 1995. prior to that he held similar positions at "newsweek" and portfolio. before "vanity fair" he worked from 1988 to 1995 as a legal affairs reporter for the new york post. he contributed to a column covering trials of o.j. simpson, lorraine that bob bit and william kennedy smith, just to name a few. graduate of the university of michigan and stanford law school, david has written piece including a long-form article entitled "a predator priest" about bringing a pedophile priest to justice in his hometown in connecticut. he is also the author of several books including "beyond glory." david says of his new book, it's
8:19 am
an honest acknowledgment of racial sensitivities that exist in this country and how when it comes to race relations in america, it can be very complex and an ongoing process. the relationship between elizabeth and hazel is like a metaphor for america's racial history. a reflection of how much more this country, blacks and whites, have to do. everyone, introducing david margolick. [applause] >> well, thank you, yana-jenelle. i just want to make one correction in your very nice introduction which is that i was a reporter for many years for "the new york times," not "the new york post." [laughter] that may not mean so much to people down here, but in new york there's a big distinction
8:20 am
between the two. [laughter] um, i also want to say that skip mentioned that, um, about elizabeth's birthday. and you might think that it's just a great coincidence that we're having, that we're having the puff date of my book just happens to overlap with elizabeth's birthday, but that's really not the case. um, we deliberately wanted to commemorate elizabeth's birthday by publishing on it, um, as a fitting tribute to her and just sort of -- we just thought it would be good karma, actually. [laughter] we couldn't go wrong, um, coming out on her, on what for her is an important birthday. and so, um, that explains the noncoincidence. i want to thank skip for -- i've already been here once before, as some of you recidivists in the audience know.
8:21 am
i recognize some of you already. and i want to thank skip for having me back, um, when my work is further along, crr my further along than it was last time. it's always nice to have a second bite of the apple. and just looking out i see a lot of familiar faces here including a lot of the people that i interviewed, and that's also very dratfying. it's always gratifying to see a pile of books over there and some extra chairs that they are unfolding at the last minute which is an author always likes to see. nikolai, um, sent me a list of the people who had signed up for this afternoon's program, and on my blackberry i could only get the first half of them, but i looked down the list, and i saw max brantley, wiley brandon, ralph brody, betsy jakeaway and
8:22 am
johanna lewis. that's only up through the ls, and these are all people who helped me and talked to me and to whom i'm grateful. and i'm sure there are a lot more of you. i see griff stockily, there are a lot more of you out here, so it's a chance for me to thank all of you as well. one of the questions that i'm off asked, um -- often asked, um, in interviews about this book is when i first saw the famous picture of elizabeth and hazel. and my answer is always the same, i have no idea when i first saw it. who can say when you first saw a picture like this. this is the kind of picture that just seeps into your consciousness. it doesn't happen in any particular time. it's, for any sensitive person, it's the kind of picture that you grow up with. you notice it as a very early age, and it's just engraved in your mind. you never forget it once you see it. it's just one of those pictures.
8:23 am
it's like the picture of the little boy with the cap with his hands up in the warsaw ghetto. it's one of those pictures that you see once, and it sticks with you. it captures, it's a picture that, i mean, there are many, there are many famous pictures of the civil rights movement, and we all know the images of the fire hoses and the german shepards and the heartbreaking images of people sitting in at lunch counters having ketchup and coffee poured on their heads or freedom riders being beaten. but this picture is different. there's something different about this picture, and what is it? what is it about this picture that stands out in our minds? i think there are a lot of things about it, but it's particularly the face. it's the face of hazel that sets it apart. i say in the book that the picture is of elizabeth and hazel, but the picture is really more of hayesen than -- hazel
8:24 am
than it is of elizabeth. if you look carefully at the be picture, will counts' picture, elizabeth is already sort of walking out of the frame. elizabeth is even out of focus a little bit. it's hazel that you, to which, to whom your eyes are train immediately -- drawn immediately, and it's all, the way that it fell together, it's all just perfect stage anything a way -- staging in a way. the lighting is perfect, the lighting is coming in from the side, t early in the morning, it's bright. it set her face apart. she's in perfect focus, she's sort of set apart from everybody else in the picture. she just stands out. and then there's the expression on the face and, you know, what is that expression? it captures, i mean, what picture better captures what the attitude, the attitude of the south towards what was going on, the attitude of the south towards deselling rebase in 1957.
8:25 am
the absolute rage, the indignation, the indignation that southerners felt, the contempt, the utter contempt for black people that's captured in that picture. to use sort of a more modern notion, there's also a notion that's generally applied now to modern warfare. there's the asymmetry of the picture, the fact that the forces, the powers in the picture are so disproportionate. there's only one black face in the picture, just elizabeth, and she's surrounded by all of these white faces. and all of the power and the force and the influence and everything is all gathered in the white community. elizabeth is very much alone. so elizabeth's face, as i say,
8:26 am
is the only black face in the picture. at the point that she showed up that day, she was the first black. i say in the book we all talk about the little rock nine. at that moment testifies the little -- she was the little rock one. and it took me a while until the -- until i actually got a good print of the picture. elizabeth is very hard to read in a way behind those sun glasses that she was wearing. it's kind of hard to know what she was feeling at that moment. she's described it on many occasions, but it's hard to see it unless you study the picture very carefully which requires a good print of it. and like any good picture, you're always discovering something new every time you see it. and i notice that if you look behind those sunglasses, you can see, you can see into elizabeth's eyes, you can see several things. you can see the sadness in her eyes, you can see the fear, of
8:27 am
course, you can see a certain kind of resignation as if, as if she almost expected something like this to happen. you can see, um, heartbreak. study that picture sometime, and you'll see all of those things in her eyes. so that was, so that's my answer to the question of when i saw the picture the first time. the second time, um, yana-jenelle just described to you. i was in little rock to do a story, a clinton-related story, um, a story -- truth be told -- about paula jones. [laughter] if you remember her. and, and, um, i guess it was sort of -- i had sort of limited enthusiasm about doing the story to begin with, and i think it was probably my good fortune that she wouldn't speak with me. and so the story never happened. um, and that may be just as well. but, of course, um, as a amateur
8:28 am
student of american history, i knew all about central high school, and i knew about the picture, and so i made a pilgrimage over to the old mobil station which was then the visitor center. and that was when i saw the poster of elizabeth and hazel. and i was just amazed to see this poster. i didn't know anything about the two of them ever getting together again. i guess the story was sort of a local story, and i had missed it. i hadn't read it in the papers where i was. and be, um, and the idea that these two, these two people, these sort of archetypal antagonists had come together and there they were smiling and seemingly comfortable with one another stand anything front of central, i thought, now, there is a story. there is a real story. so it was at that point that i started to make some phone calls, um, and i don't remember
8:29 am
honestly whether it was that visit or another visit, but i think i'm -- i'm pretty sure that i saw the two of them pretty quickly. the two of them were still speaking at that point, and i arranged to visit with the two of them. it was memorable for me because we all went out to a diner. um, hazel, hazel's husband, elizabeth and i went to this barbecue place. i think it was a barbecue place outside of little rock. and it wasn't simms. [laughter] i discovered simms later. and i became a repeat customer. but it wasn't simms that time. and it was a historic occasion because i remember that elizabeth insisted on treating us all for lunch that day. um, it was the first time that beth had just gotten -- elizabeth had just gotten her first credit card, and she had this piece of plastic, and she wasn't sure that it actually worked, that you could actually
8:30 am
walk out of a restaurant without actually handing over some cash, and she wanted to make sure the damn thing worked. and it did. and so elizabeth treated us to lunch. um, i didn't realize that, that at that point -- this was in 1999 -- that the two of them, that all of the optimism that had been generated by that reconciliation poster, the relationship had already started to fray. um, i guess if i'd been paying careful anticipation, i might -- attention, i might have noticed it, but to me they presented, they were both very polite with me and seemed to be getting along and presented a unitedded front. and maybe i was just oblivious. i mean, i remember that i asked hazel something about how they were getting along, and she said, well, let's just put it this way: the honeymoon is over, and now we're taking out the garbage. and i suppose that maybe that
8:31 am
should have been a flag for me, but it wasn't. and, but it quickly became apparent that, that if i were to do a book, it was not going -- the book, the path to the book would be a little bit rocky and that, um, it turned out that that day hazel felt that elizabeth and i were sort of in cahoots. i mean, i had, i guess, probably the naive assumption, i think that a lot of us and particularly a lot of white people are very naive about race. and i had just, i had just assumed that, um, you know, in talking to a white woman and a black woman and trying to win them over and win their confidence and, and get them to agree to talk to me for what was then just a magazine story, not a book, that, you know, whites would sort of be natural allies, and it would be the black woman
8:32 am
who would be more skeptical and wary of me. and it was actually quite the opposite. um, and i think that hazel, hazel quickly felt that -- hazel had done her homework. hazel's an interesting woman and a self-taught woman. hazel never graduated from high school. she dropped out to have a family when she was 17 years old. but she had done, she had done her reading in the civil rights movement, and she had realized -- she had learned that when the naacp was founded, i think it was 1909. i may have that wrong, but i think the about 1909, that there were jews who were active in the establishment of the naacp, and there'd been this historic association between jews and blacks, and she felt that, you know, a jewish writer and a black woman were going to be sort of naturally allies. and weren't necessarily going to be fair -- that i might not necessarily be impartial in all of this. and so at that point elizabeth
8:33 am
steps out of the picture. and for the next seven years i never spoke to her again. she would never meet with me -- and this is hazel. if i said elizabeth? yes, hazel. at that point, hazel leaves the picture and refuses to speak with me despite i write her letters, and she's not interested in speaking with me. i realize now that it was part of her larger sort of disillusionment with everything that had happened. and so for the first seven years of my research -- and i had yana suggest to you before that i wasn't working full time on this for 12 years. i mean, i was gainfully employed for all that time too. but for the first seven years i concentrated my work on elizabeth. and it started at there's a little, a nice little victorian bed and breakfast place not far from here in a pink house, and
8:34 am
elizabeth came over, and we sat in the and got to know each other a little bit. that's when the interviews started to finish that's when therinterviews began. there was a lot to talk about. i had to learn about elizabeth's family. i learned about the influence of her mother and particularly of her grandfather, her experiences at, in the segregated schools of little rock and what it was like to grow up black in little rock in the early 1950s. um, we talked a lot, of course, about her year at central and the experience, the horrible experiences that she had there. you know, of course, there's this, um, assumption that grown up in recent years that a lot of this stuff is exaggerated, and i urge -- anybody who thinks it's exaggerated should take the trip up to fayetteville the way that i did.
8:35 am
turns out to be a very long drive. these states are big out here. [laughter] the very long drive up to fayetteville where mrs. huckabee's papers are. and mrs. huckabee was mrs. huckabee, the vice principal for girls at central high school was quite a pack rat, and she saved all of the disciplinary cards that, from that year frrk the 1957-1958 school year. and there are a lot of them. and there are a lot of them lusting the various -- listing the various complaints that the little rock nine had about people, objects being thrown at them and being scalded in the shower and being thrown down the stairs and being, having their lockers broken into and being harassed in gym class and having stones thrown at them and all of that. and it's all there in contemporaneous documents in mrs. huckabee's files in fayetteville. it was very useful to go there.
8:36 am
um, so i had a long time to interview elizabeth, and it was a very satisfying experience. elizabeth is an extremely intelligent woman and sophisticated woman with a great appreciation for history which i admire her for enormously. she understood what i was doing, and she never interfered with it. she department try to lobby me -- she department try to lobby me or propagandize me or prosthelytize me or spin me in any way. i showed both elizabeth and hazel my book before it was cast in stone, before the publisher pushed the button, i mean, when it was, it was still malleable enough to change. and i remember i even saved it, i think i still have it on my answering machine, that -- i was very curious to see what their reactions would be.
8:37 am
and one day i came back home, and there was a message from elizabeth that i listen today with some apprehensiveness. david, this is elizabeth, and my heart kind of dropped because i knew she had read the book. and she said there are, david, there are factual errors on page 16, page 32, page 83, page 95 -- [laughter] and she listed about eight or nine different mistakes that i had made, you know, that the street lights department go into -- didn't go into her neighborhood before a certain year or i had misspelled mr. christophe's name at dunbar or whatever it was. these were the mistakes. elizabeth never, you know, never tried to spin me or change my conclusions or my attitude on anything substantive. she was just concerned that i had the facts right. and it just, it heightened my already enormous respect for her.
8:38 am
um, there were many things that i was afraid to ask elizabeth about. there are some very sensitive things about, you know, the many years that elizabeth spent sort of in the wilderness before she went back to work, um, for judge humphrey. i don't know if judge hutch friday is here, but hopefully he is. particularly about the at the time of her son which i was very much afraid to ask elizabeth about. a lot of you will remember that and the tragic circumstances there. but i did eventually ask her about all of that. it's all in the book, and she really answered all of these things unflinchingly. just enormously courageous of herment finally, after seven or eight years of research, um, a version of my story came out in "vanity fair" on the web site of "vanity fair". it was never actually in the magazine.
8:39 am
and then something quite miraculous happened. um, hazel read the article, and at that point she could see that i had no animus towards her, that i wasn't yet another yankee do-gooder, second guesser coming down here to take pot shots at her. that i was trying each though she wasn't speaking -- even though she wasn't speaking with me, i tried to understand her as best i could, and that i didn't have it in for her. and so that -- and, also, i think she was heartened by some of the things elizabeth had said about her. they hadn't spoken to one another at this point for several years. in fact, as i point out in the book, the last a time they spoke was on september 11th, the september 11th of 2001 when hazel was in massachusetts and got scared by what was going on, and even though they were no longer talking to one another, who did hazel call?
8:40 am
she called elizabeth for sort of support and sustenance which says something about the kind of relationship that they had formed even though they were in commune cat doe at that point. so at that point i started to talk to haze and to make up for lost time, and i felt very lucky about that because the book got a certain kind of symmetry. i didn't want -- i wanted the book to be elizabeth and hazel, i department want it to be just elizabeth, and so i caught up with hazel. and she soon learned, i soon subjected her to the same incessant kind of questioning that i had, to which i'd already subjected elizabeth. elizabeth was always amazed that i kept having more questions for her. and whenever i said to her, you know, this may be it, i think i may not have any more for you, she'd laugh. [laughter] she came to laugh at a certain point because she knew that there'd always be more. and so then hazel got summited to the same -- summited to the
8:41 am
same treatment as elizabeth, and i learned her story going back to redfield. she took me to redfield where she grew up, the neighborhood in little rock where she lived when she first moved here. i learned, i learned about her background, her sort of racial attitudes, a little bit about the, about the day of the picture and how in a way how typical the picture was of somebody of her background, you know, reflecting the racial attitudes that she had grown up with, but also in a sense atypical, in an important sense atypical because she was really quite an apolitical girl. she really didn't care about politics, she didn't think much about politics. she was into boys and dancing which was why she was sort of dressed the way she was that day. i mean, steve's show mattered much more to her than brown v.
8:42 am
board of education. [laughter] that was very clear. and she'd be the first to admit that. and so there was a lot of, a lot of acting out that day. i mean, she just, you know, she was somebody who was kind of a performer, and she wanted to outperform the other girls that today. and that's what she did. and that have the moment that will counts happened to capture in his picture. she was just sort of acting out. and she was also, um, 15 years old. and i think that, i think that's an important factor. she looks much older than that in that picture, and i think people judge her as somebody much older than that, rather than some 15-year-old girl who was just out to impress her friends. so i followed hazel's story up through that very dramatic moment that we mentioned before in 1962 or 1963. it's even significant that hazel
8:43 am
didn't remember precisely when with it happened, but she'd seen these disturbing images on television. heshe was live anything a trailr outside of little rock. she had two young kids, and she was seeing these images of the civil rights movement and these images of brutality, and she realized that she had made her own unique contribution to that. and that, i think it dawned on her slowly that her own children were going to grow up to realize that that was their mother in this picture in their history book and that she had an account to settle. and so she picked up the phone one day -- this is one of those things where people have different memories to have same thing. it's unclear whether she reached directly or whether elizabeth's grandfather answered the phone and took a message. but one way or the other, at some point elizabeth and hazel actually spoke. and elizabeth and hazel said to elizabeth, i'm the girl in the
8:44 am
picture, um, and i just want you to know how sorry i am for what i did. and there's really not that much more to say about the conversation. it was a very short conversation. um, i think that there really wasn't that much more for either of them to say, and that was it. but it was, to me, an enormously significant moment in the story because, you know, every author wants to like -- it's easier to like the people that you're writing about for whatever reason. you want to like them, and you want to trust them. and i thought this was, it was very significant that, um, in 1962, you know, when there was no oprah on television and there were no television cameras around and nobody was watching and nobody was recording it and not every, you know, not every moment was considered fodder for tabloid television, you know, in
8:45 am
the privacy of a trailer in the outskirts of little rock, um, hazel made that phone call. and so that, that, to me, put into a different light everything that hazel did subsequently. it said to me that her heart was in the right place. so we fast forward, i mean, i don't want fast forward -- i don't do anything fast. [laughter] when i'm writing. but we fast forward now, i mean, in the book i describe, you know, elizabeth goes into the army, elizabeth gets out of the army, elizabeth tries to find herself, elizabeth has many years sort of in the wilderness. elizabeth has two children. hazel raises her family, she has three kids, and she quickly has grandchildren and gets involved with a number of, a number of sort of to hobbies; belly dancig and new age, various new age kinds of things. but also tries to get involved with the black community, um, in
8:46 am
certain ways. um, she starts working with up wed mothers and -- unwed mothers and mothers with children in foster care. she goes on, she works with underprivileged kids and takes them on field trip. again, the only cameras that are this are, you know, are point and shoots that people happen to bring with them. there's no press coverage of any of this. her husband sort of makes fun of her for, you know, for trying to -- still trying to atone for the picture. but this is, this is how she wants to live her life, and she wants to be a role model for her chirp. for her children. and she's bothered by the fact that the picture keeps appearing with increasing frequency. every anniversary, the picture appears, and it's in all the history books, and the fifth anniversary and the tenth anniversary and all of that, and no one ever bothers finding out whatever happened to her. she knows that she's evolved, but no one else knows that. and she's not press be savvy, so
8:47 am
it doesn't occur to her to call anybody up and plant the story anywhere. and it really takes the 40th anniversary to sort of bring out her story. and i would imagine that many people here remember the 40th anniversary and how she comes forward and how will counts, the original photographer, comes back to town and takes the second picture that becomes the poster, um, that sort of gets all of little rock's hopes up, that skip rutherford decides to put on a poster that's sold in the visitor center, still being sold in the visitor center apparently. people still want to believe the message of the poster. it says "reconciliation "at the bottom of it. and everybody remembers how excited everyone was, and the idea was that if these two people could make up, well, then perhaps little rock which had live inside shame for all of these years and, you know, was an embarrassment to it citizens
8:48 am
and a laughingstock around the world, maybe little rock had finally turned the corner. and there was great hope placed in the relationship between elizabeth and hazel and their ostensible reconciliation. and, you know, on the one hand, of course, we know in retrospect that this was naive to expect that two people could bridge a gap to significant. but on the other hand, it was prophetic. i mean, what i describe in the book is a story that's really quite extraordinary about how the two of them developed a relationship with up one anothe, again, when people weren't looking. and they, they made presentations together, they spoke to school, high schools and college kids and be grade school kids together. um, they became sort of a road show and talked about their respective experiences.
8:49 am
that part of it was all public, but they also started to hang out privately too. they went on field trips together, they'd go to flower shows together, they'd go to shoplift shops together -- thrift shops together, they'd go to hot springs together, and they actually discovered that they had a lot in common. and became, i think, um, they became friends to quite an extraordinary degree, and i mentioned that, you know, any motorist in little rock who had happened to pass them in a car and saw this white woman and black woman sitting in the car next to them at the intersection, the white woman driving because elizabeth never got her license, um, so hazel was always the driver. to think that those were the two women who were in the famous pingture, and here they were just driving around together, whoever would have come to that realization would have driven off the road. [laughter] so there was this bond. um, but as i say, by the time i
8:50 am
came along in 1999, it was already starting to fray. and i describe this in the book, i describe the causes of it. i think that, you know, from elizabeth's standpoint as i say, elizabeth is a student of h ri. elizabeth is very demanding, demanding of herself and demanding of other people and very precise. she speaks precisely, she demands precision from other people. and she thought that hazel -- she couldn't believe that some of the things that hazel couldn't explain were sort of unconscious errors of mission. she thought that it had to have been think about. she was, i mean, i'd be the first to say and elizabeth would agree, elizabeth was tough on hazel and demanding on hazel. and she couldn't believe, for instance, that a photograph, a scene that horrible could have been under -- something as
8:51 am
horrible as what happened on september 4th of '57 could have been undertaken so lightly. there had to have been more of a story to it. hazel had to have remembered more about it than she did. and the fact that she department remember more about it and that she was as casual about it as she was had to have been a conscious attempt at dissembling. it had to be deceitful. it couldn't just be forbe getfulness or inanticipativeness. and there were many things like this that elizabeth took issue with in hazel's story. and that was one thing that have happening. from hazel's standpoint, i mean, hazel felt this kind of tension coming from elizabeth. hazel also felt a kind of antagonism coming from ore members of the -- other members of the black community and other members of the little rock nine who seemed to resent her presence at various events, who thought that she was out to cash in. where had she been all these years, you know? is she was clearly out to make a
8:52 am
buck. she couldn't possibly be sincere. and, of course, hazel knew better than that, and hazel knew all of these years she had been working to, working for racial ameal yore eight. but she couldn't convince other people. she couldn't convince other people of that. and then there was the flak that she took in the white community. she took a lot of that. for all the approbation she got, there were a lot of people who felt that hazel was a great embarrassment to the white community. she had become the symbol of white little rock that all of the good kids at central high school had been tarred by her brush, and, you know, the world had come to think that everybody at central high school was like hazel that year. in fact, hazel hadn't even been in central that year. her parents pulled her out within a week of the time that picture was taken, and she wasn't even a student at central that year. and they wanted hazel just to go away. and they found hazel to be an embarrassment.
8:53 am
and so hazel found that she was getting flak from that community as well. and there's a story in the book about hazel going to one of her class reunions. it's absolutely striking to me that somebody in hazel's position would have the nerve and the guts in a way to go to a class reunion, but she did go. and everybody sort of ignored her and, or sort of snickered at her. she heard people snickering, you know, that's the girl in the picture. and she told me that one of the girls in the picture -- one of the girls who was snickering at her was one of the same kids who had jumped out the second floor window at central the day the black kids actually arrived. so hazel felt she department need this -- she didn't need this, you know? she didn't need this kind of dis approval, and she started to withdraw. and has continued to withdraw ever since. and so, you know, among all of
8:54 am
the people i talked to for in this book and, as i say, i see a lot of you in the audience, hazel is not here today. hazel hasn't -- hazel said that she hoped that -- she expected that the interviews that she gave to me would be the last that she would ever give, um, in publicizing my book hazel will not go on television. hazel has, um, hazel is out of town. i spoke to her the other day, and she's out of town. you know, it's probably, um, a preplanned vacation, but it's also a little bit convenient, and i don't want say that dispagagingly. she doesn't want to be around for any of this. and i even got -- i left out that they even got flak from oprah winfrey. the two of them went on oprah winfrey together, and oprah seemed to resent their reconciliation or their relationship. and oprah was very skeptical and
8:55 am
very preemptory and harsh and quick with both of them. sort of -- there was an episode of oprah where she was discussing the most important photographs of the 20th century and, of course, the picture of elizabeth and hazel was among them. but she got them on and off the program very, very quickly. and even though elizabeth and hazel were sort of coming apart at that point and their relationship was growing more distant, they could both degree that they had been ill treated that day and felt very bad about it afterward. i always lose track of time. i hope that i'm reasonably on time here. so the, i think that finish so -- so as i say, their last conversation was on september 11th of 2001, and they've not spoken since. in looking around, i want to talk a little bit about how
8:56 am
little rock has treated me, um, in working on this book. um, i have to say that i was, i was self-conscious about coming down here. in the course of doing my work, um, i was very conscious of, as i say, of placing myself in a position to judge, in the convenience of the 21st century of judging people it's very easy to take pot shots at people from different eras and not to have, not to have been here at the time and not to have known how i would have behaved. there was a quote that i came across. i'm not going to read anything from my book tonight, but i just want to read one quote that i came across in the course of my research that, that i thought, um, captured my attitude towards my work so beautifully that it's the epigraph in the book.
8:57 am
it's from frederick douglass who says my interest in any man is objectively in his manhood and subjectively in my own manhood. and that's the way that i feel about this project, that, you know, this was really, it was a chance for me to try to assess where i would have been and what i would have done in 1957 if i had been here, you know, a white guy, a student at central high school or a citizen in little rock or whatever and how i would have, whether i would have stood up and how well i would have stood up. and that's, you know, that's the attitude with which i tried to write all of this. i tried to met the facts speak for themselves. um, i tried not to be any more judgmental than i needed to be and be not to take the easy shots. a lot of people in little rock, most people in little rock were very nice to me. i got help from all kinds of people at various research libraries, i placed ads in the
8:58 am
little rock paper for people's recollections. um, i had many, many interesting experiences, some very moving experiences and some surprising experiences. i mean, history's always more complicated, and the complications and surprises of history are what make it so enriching and satisfying to do. i mean, i remember, um, in particular in response to one ad that i placed in the democrat and gazette for people who remembered the picture, i wanted to find the people who were in the picture, and i wanted to find people who were at central with elizabeth, and i wanted to retrieve as many stories as i could. and be i remember, i remember -- i thought that was somebody heckling before over there, but i -- [laughter] i don't think it is. i remember one woman calling me. i didn't get, i didn't get many responses to these ads, but i remember that there was one
8:59 am
woman who called me, and she said, and she said that, you know, my father was a segregationist. a white woman calling me. my father was a segregationist. and, but he came home that -- he was -- he came home the night that that picture of elizabeth ran. it ran in the -- i hope i get this right -- it ran in the democrat before it ran in the gazette because the democrat was the evening paper. so will counts' picture ran first, and there was a very similar picture taken by a fellow named johnny jenkins that ran in the gazette the next morning. hazel, incidentally, was not identified in either picture, which is interesting. one of the editors, i talked to many of the newspaper people who were covering the story, and one of the editors said that things were so end flamed that there was no need to, no sense in identifying her. and besides, to us she was just a generic white girl, a generic segregationist girl, and there
9:00 am
was no need to identify her. um, but anyway, um, this person contacted me after i, after the ad ran, and she said my father came home that night, and we were sitting around the dinner table, and i, and i'll always remember him saying i don't want my kids going to school with niggers either, but they department treat that little black -- they department treat that little black girl right. and i thought that was so moving that he, that that was what he said and that she remembered it after all these years, that that picture, that picture scandalized -- it embarrassed even segregationists, that picture. ..
9:01 am
>> i tried to call a few of them, and i didn't get very far with most of them. i remember calling one person in particular whose name was all over the files. i think probably a name that many of you would recognize, somebody in a position of some prominence in town, and he hung up on me, wouldn't talk to me about it. that was one the, pretend nothing happened. and so while i'm not judgmental about, i am judgmental about the
9:02 am
people who really ran amok that year and were allowed to run amok by the school authorities, and really paid very little price for it, and in later years never did come forward. and i think also there's this dangerous trend to pretend that things were not all that bad, and that things have been exaggerated and that the "little rock nine" sort of created a cottage industry of sympathy. and enough already with this, let's just move on, and it's all exaggerated. and i would urge people to not just read my book, which, unicom is after all secondary history. just go back and read some of the contemporaneous documents. go back into mrs. huckabee's files and read those reports. she had no ax to grind. she was just supporting what was happening. so i think that that kind of
9:03 am
revisionism would surface on the 50th anniversary. there's a story in the democrat gazette in which many of the people who were at central in 1957 and 50 or saying it was just only a few bad kids, and things have not been that bad. that means we have to guard against that. and i think that no one has been more vigilant about guarding against that dan elizabeth. one of the remarkable moments in the story is elizabeth, elizabeth, a woman who once used to have to bring a waste basket lined with a plastic bag with her when she spoke in public for fear that she would get sick while she was speaking, she was not scared of public speaking, elizabeth having become a depth and passionate and articulate and confident enough to give a speech was the one who's charging to give a speech in the
9:04 am
commemoration of the visitors center a day after that article ran in the paper. she as an eyewitness to all this, no one was better suited to counter the arguments revisionist argument, that things were not really all that bad. and she gave a great impassioned speech about that, that was very moving. so this story has a very happy ending for me. i feel very proud of this book. and i feel privileged to have met both elizabeth and hazel. and as i said, i admire them both and that's a great treat for an author. i met a lot of interesting people doing this book. i paid probably 10 visits to little rock, and i've enjoyed my trips down to, even when the town was snowbound and completely paralyzed with maybe half an inch of snow. [laughter]
9:05 am
and i learned that little rock a parent has no snow trucks, and i was grateful that there was food in my hotel because there was no worry to eat and everything was closed. but the town was nice to me. most of the people i interviewed were gracious and patient with me. and i hope that they feel that my book is fair. that's the most important thing. so it's a happy ending for me. as it stands is not a happy ending for elizabeth and hazel. i tried not to sugarcoat it. i tried not to influence it in anyway. i didn't think that it was my role to try to bring them together. and when i would contend i would visit them simply. i would rarely talk to one about the other. until the very end, the report always puts out the hard
9:06 am
questions until the end. but at a certain point i would have to say, you know, elizabeth, hazel says such and such about to come is this true? hazel, elizabeth said such and such about you. just crisscross and go back and review what one has said about the other. but one thing struck me, i was struck by how each of them talked, each of them, when the talk about one another, they each get choked up. i mean, it's very clear to me, and maybe i'm just outsider and the armchair psychologist. it's very clear to me that there's still a very strong bonds that exist between these two women, and very profound connection between them. and it wasn't, you know, it wasn't my place as i say to bring them together. i asked only of the very end, at the behest of my photographer, my photographer said, you know, we've tried to get a picture of
9:07 am
them together. they over to history to post one more time together. and that actually reluctantly did ask them both. i don't know if you could predict what the reactions would have been. after all the years i put into it and my reaction i think i was naïve still. but elizabeth was willing, because as i say elizabeth is a student of history. elizabeth realize for better or for worse these two people in perpetuity are going to be joined together, and they had a certain obligation for the sake of history to let history see them as they turn 70. i hope i'm not giving away some secret there, elizabeth. [laughter] so elizabeth was game to do it. she said i'm not sure what i would say to her, but i would do it. and hazel said, hazel didn't say no. hazell said i'm not ready yet. and the operative word there is
9:08 am
yet. and i'm hopeful that sometime when we're all out of the way and nobody is looking and nobody is paying any attention to them, that the two of them do come back together again in some way. and i would indeed be a very happy ending. so, i just want to thank all of you for coming, and for caring about this story and for caring about my book. and i'm happy to take any questions you might have. [applause] >> all right. thank you, david. all right, we have time for sub questions. please raise your hands. ms. abrams. >> why am i not surprised you're asking the the first question? >> you got to know me very well. >> and you're extremely helpful.
9:09 am
and i don't know, i must have seen you on that list because you must have been on there. >> she has a permit to be here. >> david, i am a scholar of history and i have great respect for you as a researcher of history. but most historians also our profits. my question to you is, in light of the history that you did, for not only little rock but for this country, and at the time that we are now as a prophet of research and the divisiveness that is now present as web and african-american president, what is your projection of how far we have come in this country? not just in little rock. >> my first comment is that the words history and prophet, at least when prophet this build
9:10 am
with an f., are rarely associate with one another. and probably prophet, not much more. i think that, i think that, this story has pessimistic and hopeful elements to. just extrapolating, extrapolating from this story, and as i say, i think that on the one hand you could read this with great despair, you know, that two people of good faith had the experience that they had. on the other hand, as i say i think there's this very profound connection between the two of them. and let's face it, when you
9:11 am
read, delicious amazing collection of material that they came across but i do want to take up too much, i want to give people a chance to ask questions, but i just want to take one slight digression to say that there was an mit professor who came down here in 1957 to research what was going on in little rock. and i went to look at his papers at mit. he died several years ago. his papers were absolutely voluminous. 40 boxes of them and does everything in there but his stuff on little rock, just heartbreaking. so it turned out his son-in-law was a former "new york times" reporter, whom i knew. and he said, let's look around. i spoke to his son and his son said, you know, there's one more box of the stuff in the back of
9:12 am
my closet, let me just look in there. and sure enough the little rock file within the. and he spent several days down here interviewing the leading citizens of little rock, going to the arkansas club, the segregated club, the little rock club, the little rock club. no jews or blocks allowed, and this research was allowed into because he was a guest of the people but he could have never joined as a jew. the world that these people, i see in the book at something like all of these people are now dead, and it's like spoon river anthology for those of you who remember their voices from the dead talking about little rock in 1957. and it was really a pretty bleak place, and racially it was, it was in the neanderthal age. you don't have to be pollyanna to know about the strides that
9:13 am
have been made since then, and had even an event like this would have been unthinkable back then, you know? you fly into little rock. i always think, these are superficial things maybe, but the first thing when you see when you fly into little rock is the little rock airport commission, the photographs of those five or six people. i think there are two blacks and poor whites, or whatever, or maybe it is three and three, i don't even know. you are remind right off the bat of how much different things are here. at least on the surface. and so, i mean i think all of the, so much of the antagonism towards obama is racially oriented, and they remain very, very deep divisions in this country and real misunderstandings, real animosity. there's a hell of a lot of work still to do. maybe i should, i almost feel guilty tacking on the look out so far we've come, because that's the usually pollyannaish
9:14 am
addendum. but there is some truth to that, too. >> elizabeth. >> that looks like any historical book brings element of truth. because where things have happened say that something happened here. i don't know much about it, but something happened here. that's childish. but it happens everywhere. it happens everywhere. that is what made me start talking about those painful memories, and that type of thing does continue. it happens everywhere. but some people go to the primary sources. [laughter] spirit and there is a primary source. [applause]
9:15 am
>> i think you should take that as a complement. >> she is the primary source, and so is many gene. is she here and? i've often said that one vegas thing i did about not writing in this book is doing a box set. because she, there couldn't be two people more different than elizabeth eckford and minny jean brown. they are complete opposites, polar opposites to only unite in how amazing each of them is, and it was a missed opportunity. and i hope someone else does the book. >> it's really more of a complement. i had the pleasure to read this book this past month, and if you don't have a copy, don't leave
9:16 am
without it. and a couple of things i want to say. david describes the duress is that the two girls wore that day. and -- addresses that the two girls wore that day. i could identify because i had both of those dresses. so that's the kind of care that he took in telling the story, because he made them very easy to identify with. and other things i want to say is that, more often than not folks who come from out of town and try to write this story are not, they often make all of the white people villains and all of the black people he rose. and instead, you gave us to beautifully complex human beings. and i really, really appreciate that. >> i'm grateful for you for saying that. i thank you for mentioning the dresses, because i think that the story about elizabeth and
9:17 am
her sister making her skirt for school is just, is so powerful to me, and the fact that elizabeth never wore that skirt again, you know, this skirt that was made with such hope for the first day of school. and you know, she put it up in the attic and it does sound great and at some point was thrown away. and he first all have right idea that that was a dress that of ended up in the smithsonian. that's where it belonged, instead it disintegrated. i'm glad that you noticed that. you know, i mean, ralph brody is here. routh came to my last talk. routh and i have different feelings about parts of my story but i have great respect for him and i tried to be fair to him, and i tried them as i say, i
9:18 am
tried to put myself in issues of anybody who was here then. and not just throw around these very easy generalizations about people. this was a complicated situation that was thrust upon little rock. i tried to capture it in as much of its complexity as i could. >> i'm a secretary clinton schooled student. i actually was with mrs. eckford on the 50th, well, when they had the congressional gold medal ceremony earlier this year. i was the person responsible to be alongside her for that whole function, though several hours.
9:19 am
so that was an insider's take your and thank you so kindly. my question to you is this. our latest stance of our national race drama ends at a ranch in texas where there is a rock. on that rock was something derogatory, and inflammatory. how would you go about advising today's youth in understand the history of associate with that, when so many are so disconnected from that particular history and the word associated with that rock? >> well, first of all i'm hopeful and not just for my own selfish reasons that people read a book like this. i mean, everybody is in high school at one time or another, and i think that this book sort of frames the issue from the standpoint of two high school kids living to all of these issues, and i think that, you
9:20 am
know, for people who don't know much about this era or these issues, it's a good initiation into them. that's the first thing. the second thing is that i think that this has to be addressed with great candor, and i mean you absolutely no disrespect. that rock said nader head on. people won't say it because they think that it is better not to say the word, but the full outrageousness of that episode can be captured only if you don't euphemize it, or does it overcome or choose secure at it. it needs to be articulated. and i didn't hesitate. if that word came up in the course of my book, i used it because that was part of the language of 1957. now, the perry story illustrates is part of the linkage of 2012. we know in 2011 it was painted
9:21 am
over, and apparently it disappeared at some point, but beneath the surface of the history of this country, there are a million episodes like this. it's everywhere. it's absolutely everywhere. we do ourselves no favor not to acknowledge it. and it's sort of, i'm kind of pleased when ever haiti barber says something, or when an episode like this happens, or we can each think of many other instances where race sort of peaks up its ugly head, and it needs to be discussed. it needs to be ventilated. it hasn't gone away, and it is deeply embedded. and so i think, i think it's a good thing and it's instructive when it happens. and even when we discuss it, as you and i are discussing it now, it needs to be discussed
9:22 am
explicitly. >> ladies and gentlemen, -- [applause] >> this event was hosted by the clinton school of public service at the university of arkansas. >> karen beckwith i'm a political women at american democracy. how did you decide which essays to include in this work? >> my coeditors and i organized with a foundation, a project on american democracy at the university of notre dame that we would convene by our estimation the best scholars on women and politics in the u.s. not only in the u.s. but scholars who were working on u.s. women and politics. so we brought together a range of people whose research we knew well, and convened for a two-day conference at notre dame.
9:23 am
after which, at that conference we discuss all the manuscripts they constitute the chapters of these books, of this book. and have some commentary about it and discussion. and put it together as an edited collection which cambridge university press published in 2008. >> describe the role of women described in this book. >> there are several in the in the book so let me play for us what we are not doing in this book. were not looking at public policy per se. we are not looking at women in the executive because even the 2008 there so few women in the executive and not yet a major female candidate for the nomination for president of a major political party in the united states pics of very few women at executive level which met the research wasn't there yet to really support a good discussion. finally, we didn't address women in the judiciary. so what did we address? we looked at the behavior of women as voters. the behavior of women as candidates for office both state and national office, behavior of
9:24 am
women within political parties. the behavior of women was elected to national office. we also have a huge factor that looked at the gendered nature of the u.s. polluter institutions as well as u.s. politics for women in politics in the context of comparative politics. what does the situation for women and politics look like in the u.s. compared to the rest of the world. the picture is not so pleasant. we have one of the least advantageous in electoral systems at the national level for women, which is a single member plurality system with some modification. at the state level. we also. we also have owned two major political parties which are informal and intel construction, have no clear formal instructions for becoming a candidate, offer very little clear structural means by which women can work the parties, so to speak, to increase women's candidacies. there's lots of disadvantages
9:25 am
women have in the united states. >> in relation to the political parties, as a woman voter, what are the findings related, encouraging, directly related to women's? >> this interesting things that make women in fact the politically relevant demographic category. first, there are more women than men in the u.s. citizenry in voting a letter. secondly, women have slightly higher registration rates and demand. and women turned out that higher, slightly higher percentages than did men. the larger number of houses number of women combined with women's heightened turnout makes for a big electoral impact. women also are disproportionate democratic. this is true across all age groups and is also true across all racial groups. to racial and ethnic groups, women still have a slight preference for the democratic party compared to men. so when we come into an election, it seems like turner
9:26 am
and range of issues that might attract women are very important. women are more likely than men to vote for the democratic presidential candidate. that's been the case since 1992. that gap has been between two percentage points to five percentage points, depending upon the polls that you look at. there is a democratic advantage in the electorate, for the democratic party. in general because of women. the absolute numbers the turno turnout. the issues that seem to mobilize women and attract their vote have to do with such passionate social welfare issues, have to do with foreign policy issues and also to a certain extent so-called morality issues. but on these women very for women and men different directions. women are more concerned on foreign policy security issues,
9:27 am
and that can have an impact on women's vote. and, finally, women are more concerned about social welfare issues, like health care, employment, the stated the economy, education. >> with a woman candidate for president coming into the campaign, do you see those preference is changing in 2012, or based on your research do you think they will largely remain the same? >> first of all, i see no female candidate come as a presidential candidate in 2012. there are only two on the list that i know of, sarah palin does not yet declared, and michele bachman is doing very poorly right now in early returns, or early old results. in the republican party debates, and in the polling numbers for her. i don't see either of them being the ultimate candidate for the republican party. on the democratic side, all things being equal, the current president, barack obama will be the party's candidate so that will foreclose any opportunity for a woman in the party to come
9:28 am
forward. so i see no presidential candidates in 2012. let me to say that some polling data, of the most recent i've seen a soybean, 2008 coming in very early in 2008 presidential primaries. about 87% of americans are going to say they would vote for a qualified woman, regardless of sex, that they would be as willing to vote for a woman as a man. americans are more likely and more willing to vote for someone who is african-american or someone who is jewish for president than they are for a woman. and i think that number is slightly door than had been the previous results. because in 2008 there was a clear potential female candidates, and that was hillary clinton on the democratic side who ultimately failed to win the nomination. >> so what are some recommendations for women in that position, or running for
9:29 am
office? does that matter come up in your book? >> we don't turn to the presidential specifically but we do look at women's candidacies for lower level office. so, a couple of recommendations, these aren't recommendations for women to let me just make clear, we only need about 4000 women nationwide to contest and win elections to have equitable representation in the senate and the house and in state houses. there are that many elected offices at the legislative level at least that requires that we need a million qualified women. i think we can find 4000, 4500 qualified woman to run. so that's not the issue. the problem is with political parties, and the unavailability of access to candidates, both the incumbent seize kashmir through the incumbent effect yesterday, 83% of congress

141 Views

info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on